Marjorie Johnson’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Minnesota Blue Ribbon Winning Recipe

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Marjorie Johnson's Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Celebrate great home baking with Marjorie Johnson’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake.

No blue ribbon recipe collection would be complete without something from Marjorie Johnson, the baking goddess who turned 102 last month. If you don’t know who she is, look her up. Marjorie is sweet, sharp, and so utterly endearing. My heart warms any time I’m fortunate enough to be in her presence. The first time I met her was of course at the Minnesota State Fair as we both took in the display cases of full of cookies, cakes, breads and pies in the Creative Activities Building. Then of course she has won special contests I’ve organized over the years.

In honor of Marjorie’s recent 102nd birthday and because it’s so darn delicious, we made and are showcasing her Sour Cream Streusel Coffee Cake. It is also the infamous cake she made with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show way back when. By the way, if you want a great read about Marjorie, check out the feature that writer Kevyn Burger penned for the Star Tribune, here.

Here are the ingredients for the batter and streusel, and before/after baking shots, then read on for baking tips.

Tips from Marjorie

Here are some baking tips for Marjorie Johnson’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake, from the grand blue ribbon baker herself. Check them out, then pull out those cake pans and get baking!

  • This coffee cake is so quick and easy because it’s a quickbread so you don’t have to worry about using yeast.
  • The secret to a light and tender coffee cake is to beat the butter and sugar very well for a creamy consistency.
  • Be sure to only fill your pans half full (at the most) or they might overflow during baking because the baking powder and the baking soda makes the batter rise while baking. Any leftover batter can be baked in a small pan, it makes a nice sample for the cook.
  • It’s a great recipe because it makes two round coffee cakes. You can eat one right away and freeze the other and take it out another day.
  • It will be ready to serve in a short time. Just enough time to set your table, make coffee and get ready for your guests.
  • I use a package of sweetened flaked coconut but any coconut would be fine.
  • The fresh-grated orange zest (in the almond streusel shown below) adds a great flavor.
  • One tip with adding the powdered sugar to the milk, is to have the milk warm maybe 80-90 degrees. This cuts the powdered sugar taste and makes a delicious glaze.
  • You could also juice the orange and use the juice with the powdered sugar instead of the milk.
  • This coffee cake was my first sweepstakes winner and since has won many blue ribbons and sweepstakes.
  • I just love this coffee cake with coffee.

And we just love love love you, Marjorie! Thanks for being such an inspiration to us all, in so many ways.



Marjorie Johnson’s Sour Cream Streusel Coffee Cake

3/4 cup butter

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sour cream (full fat)



1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup sliced almonds or chopped nuts

1/2 cup coconut flakes, sweetened or unsweetened

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon grated orange zest


Powdered Sugar Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

2 to 3 teaspoons milk (or fresh orange juice instead)

1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

Garnish with orange zest, if desired


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large electric mixer bowl, place butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Beat well, until creamy and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and beat well after each; set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, or by hand, add 1/3 of flour mixture to butter mixture, then add 1/3 of sour cream. Repeat two more times. Mix until fully combined; set aside.

Grease and flour two 9″ round or pans that are at least 1 1/2″ deep. Place 1/4 of batter in each pan, spreading it out. Combine streusel ingredients. Sprinkle 1/4 of the streusel over each pan’s batter. Divide remaining batter equally between the two pans. Top each pan with equal amount of o pans and sprinkle each top with an equal amount of the remaining streusel. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes, until inserted tooth pick comes out without batter clinging to it. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling.

Combine glaze ingredients into a smooth mixture and drizzle over tops of coffee cakes. Makes 2 coffee cakes.

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